Echoes of Homicide in Night Train
from the Amis Discussion Board (thanks to Celestina Groeberhorst).
posted Thursday, December 09, 1999 07:33 p.m.
FROM *NIGHT TRAIN*: "I am a police. That may sound like an unusual statement---or an unusual construction. But it's a parlance we have. Among ourselves, we would never say I am a policeman or I am a policewoman or I am a police officer. We would just say I am a police."
FROM *WHYDUNIT* BY CHRIS WRIGHT: There has been much speculation as to the authenticity of Amis's cop talk here, the use of "a police" causing the most consternation. One reviewer quoted a New York City police officer as saying, "Whoa! This writer should change his name back to Amos and start making those famous cookies again!" John Updike himself weighed in, calling " 'I am a police'...the first of a number of American locutions new to this native speaker."
"There's nothing strange about it", Amis says, bristling slightly. "I got a lot of my stuff from David Simon's book *Homicide*. His city is Baltimore, and that's what they say there, and I'll bet they say it in a few other cities, too."
FROM *HOMICIDE* BY DAVID SIMON: "Yes, he is a bear, but the best part of working with Donald Worden is easily understood: The man is a natural police." [Page 28.]
FROM *HOMICIDE* BY DAVID SIMON: "This city is fucked up and it will always be fucked up, but that isn't normal. Fuck Baltimore. Gene was a police in America who got shot and there are places where he would get treated like a war hero." [Page 297.]
FROM *HOMICIDE* BY DAVID SIMON: "How long have I been a poh-leece?" asks Worden, giving it the full Hampden drawl. [Page 565.]
FROM *THE MOTHER TONGUE* BY BILL BRYSON: "This tendency to compress and mangle words was first formally noted in a 1949 *New Yorker* article by one John Davenport, who gave it the happy name of Slurvian. In American English, Slurvian perhaps reaches its pinnacle in Baltimore, a city whose citizens have long had a particular gift for chewing up the most important vowels, consonants, and even syllables of most words and converting them into a kind of verbal compost, to put it in the most charitable terms possible. In Baltimore (pronounced Balamer), an eagle is an 'iggle', a tiger is a 'tagger', water is 'wooder', a power mower is a 'paramour', a store is a 'stewer', clothes are 'clays', orange juice is 'arnjoos', a bureau is a 'beero', and the Orals [Orioles] are of course the local baseball team. Whole glossaries have been composed to help outsiders interpret these and the many hundreds of other terms that in Baltimore pass for English."